By Sue Tiffin
When Don Smith’s family responded to a request about people who might want to talk about his life, and his contribution to Haliburton County, which he first visited in 1947, the list of names of people who were important to Don in some way was abundant and paints a vivid picture of someone who, as his obituary notes, was dedicated to the people and things he loved.
While one would expect the acknowledgement of lifelong friends, like Robert Bateman, those belonging to groups that connect with Don’s lifelong passion as a naturalist, notably the Haliburton Field Naturalists and Kawartha Field Naturalists and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, and neighbours on Lake Kashagawigamog including Melanie Blodgett and the Cox family, others had touched his life on a daily, weekly, monthly or even less frequent basis in passing, too.
That list includes Cynndy Hinkson for booking Diner’s Club at Win Yeung Restaurant for community seniors; Jim Frost, who looked after tickets for local theatre that Don enjoyed; Kathy Stouffer at Master’s Book Store, who ordered the books on nature he requested; the ‘pie lady’ and Steph, who put aside corn for him at the farmer’s market in case he was late arriving, and an employee at the Haliburton Feed and Seed where he bought birdseed for his feathered friends.
The list paints a picture of a vital connection that so clearly exists in small-town communities, where if we don’t know each other by name, we know each other from where we work, or where we shop, or where we walk – where we wave as we pass each other regardless of whether we even recognize each other, because we happen to be in the same place at the same time.
This connection to the people and places around us is important every day, as it obviously was to Don, but we become especially attuned to it in times of the loss of a loved one, around this festive season of giving and nostalgia, and during a pandemic in which we are all trying to carry on despite collective anxiety, grief, and stress.
While this year has been hard in that we have had to adapt sometimes to be close, we know that even when we are distanced we can still make a great difference in someone’s day and potentially their lives by generating the best of our qualities: empathy, generosity, patience, curiosity, and being aware of the world, and those in it, around us. Please take time in these days to be kind to one another, and to slow down every once in awhile to look outside and find joy in the birds.